The French Revolution ...
... was something I knew disgracefully little about, so also on my holiday reading list - the culturally relevant bit - was Christopher Hibbert's The French Revolution. It is striking how many women appear in prominent roles, good and bad.
On what is called "The day of the market-women":
On the morning of 5 October huge crowds of women gathered in the central markets and in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine shouting for bread ... They were mostly poissardes, fishwives, working women, prostitutes and market stall holders, but among them were several quite smartly dressed bourgeoises who appeared as angry as the rest. Together they marches towards the Place de Greve ... stormed up the steps of the Hotel de Ville. The guards were disarmed and their weapons handed to men who had now joined the demonstration ... Persuaded that their best hope was to petition the King, they then set off for Versailles under the not entirely willing leadership of that self-proclaimed hero of the taking of the Bastille, Stanislas Maillard, who evidently considered it undignified to command such motley female troops. (p. 97)
There is of course also the horrific parts of the story. Don't read the following if sensitive to such things!
During the September massacres that preceded the execution of the King ...
"One prisoner who did not escape the assassins' blades was Marie Gredeler, a young woman who kept an umbrella and walking-stick depository in the courtyard of the Palais Royal. Charged with having mutilated her lover, she was herself mutilated, her breasts were cut off, her feet were nailed to the ground and a bonfire was set alight between her spreadeagled legs." (p. 174)A reminder that there's nothing particularly unique about, say, the massacres of Tutsis in Rwanda.
(References from the Penguin edition of 1982)